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LES Group Fills Empty Storefronts On Community Basis

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TWC News: LES Group Fills Empty Storefronts On Community Basis
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One organization is helping landlords fill empty storefronts while also making sure business owners get good use out of some under-used spaces. NY1's Jill Urban filed the following report.

Vacant storefronts can be an eyesore in any neighborhood. Well one group from the Lower East Side has found a way to put that empty space to good use.

"We are like the AirBnB for storefronts so we find storefronts in the city that are underutilized and we find short term tenants and uses that with these spaces," says Eric Ho, creator of Made in The Lower East Side.

Made in the Lower East Side, or miLES, is an organization that helps connect entrepreneurs, artist and community groups with landlords who have vacant space. In partnership with a community group called Fourth Arts Block, the group has launched a test pilot program at this storefront on East 4th Street.

"Groups are constantly looking for a place to do readings and gallery openings and performances and all sorts of small, sometimes rehearsals, other kinds of things, and having an opportunity to have that kind of space that has that flexibility is really great," says Fourth Arts Block Executive Director Tamara Greenfield.

Right now, the small space has multiple uses. During the day it serves as a co-working space where people can pay to work in a communal environment. At night it's booked for classes and workshops and on the weekends it is transformed into a pop-up shop for various artists looking to test the market with their wares.

Ho says this is a win-win because it makes storefronts available to those who may not need or be able to afford a long term lease and it's good for landlords who are sitting with vacant space who can at least cover their basic costs.

Now the concept doesn't only apply to vacant storefronts. Made in the Lower East Side is also working with existing businesses to help them find ways to maximize the use of their space.

"We are actually working with a café on n the Lower East Side. They close at 7 p.m. and so from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. no one is using it and they are working with us to open the storefront at night for classes and events," says Ho.

That’s a good way to help businesses pay the rent.

Ho estimates there are about 200 vacant storefronts on the Lower East Side alone and he hopes the program not only connects those who need space with those who have it, but that will also channel the community’s positive energy to bring new life to the neighborhood.

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